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International Centre For Birds Of Prey

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The International Centre for Birds of Prey celebrates its 50th anniversary this year it’s the oldest dedicated birds of prey centre in the world. Wye Life chats with the Centre’s Director, Jemima Parry-Jones MBE.

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Jemima, what led to the centre being set up?
We opened the centre in May 1967. My father had worked for an actor called James Robertson Justice as his professional falconer and, when he finished that job, people would frequently come to see the few birds we had and ask his advice. So my parents thought it would be a good idea to move and start up a place where people could come and see birds of prey and learn how to look after them and partake in falconry.

How has the centre evolved during the last fifty years?
Over the years it has changed its focus. My father was a serious falconer, and although we have never forgotten our falconry beginnings the focus has quite rightly changed to look at the conservation of all birds of prey world-wide. The centre takes in injured wild birds of prey and where possible rehabilitates them back to the wild.

We take in up to 100 birds a year and have a very nice hospital area for them. We are open to the public and fly birds daily for each and every visitor. This is really important to us, because unless people appreciate the world around them, and want to see it preserved for themselves and their children, the conservation work we do will not succeed. There is nothing more exciting than seeing a falcon swoop or an owl float by, a group of kites diving on tiny bits of thrown meat, or an eagle soaring. All of this can be seen on a daily basis for our visitors throughout the year; we fly three times a day.

We’ve heard that the centre leads the world in captive breeding birds of prey?
That’s correct. To date we’ve bred 67 species. The important thing about this is we share that knowledge. Right now our most important work is with vultures because they are now one of the most endangered groups in the world. So we work in India, Nepal, Bulgaria and South Africa teaching people how to conserve vultures.

We also run courses and experience days. And, in the UK, we’re running a nest box scheme for Little Owls and Kestrels in apple orchards in Herefordshire and Gloucestershire. The local apple growers have been amazingly helpful.

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Can you tell us about the events that you hold here?
Our Owl Evenings are held in the winter, they’re great fun to come to. It’s very special to see the owls at night, especially flying outside in the dark with underground lighting.

We also run experience days where you can learn to handle and fly various birds. We have one big falconry event a year where we have lots of stands around the field with falconry equipment, wonderful artists, food and a bar. We have other people come in and fly birds as well as our normal demonstrations – it’s a great weekend. All the information about our events can be found on our website.

How can our readers get involved with your work?
Oh, that is a wonderful question! If you live locally, you can come and volunteer. You can volunteer on the bird side, the of office, the shop, the café, as someone who can give guided tours (we will teach you) or even be a transporter for us to collect injured wild birds – again we will teach you. You can join as a member which means you can visit as often as you like in a year and most of our members become friends and get roped in for all sorts of things.

You could make donations to the work that we do, leave us legacy in your will, sponsor a bird, the options are myriad!

Do you have any plans for your anniversary year?
I was fortunate to be given an MBE for services to bird conservation by Her Majesty The Queen, and we are hoping for a Royal Visit this year from HRH The Princess Royal for our 50th anniversary which will be wonderful. We plan a major fundraising campaign as I have a ton of very exciting plans that will benefit not only the wonderful birds that live here, but also the visitors, giving them a better experience, and an appreciation of the conservation work that we do outside the centre as well.

We highly recommend a trip to the centre which is open daily from February 1st – November 30th 10.30am – 5.30pm or dusk (if earlier). Their café opens at 10.30am and closes at the beginning of the last flying demonstration of the day which is 4.15pm in the summer and 3.30pm in the winter.

International Centre for Birds of Prey
Newent, Gloucestershire GL18 1JJ

01531 820286 / 821582

jpj@icbp.org
www.icbp.org

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